He first saw me for a vasectomy when he was in his mid 30’s. Nervous as all get out, he braved the visit, did splendidly, and was a better man for it. This experience changed him, because from then on, he felt that doctors were “OK” and could be trusted. His first real “date” with healthcare as an adult went well.
He connected again about eight years later with a disturbing new curvature to his penis with erections. I saw him a second time and diagnosed him with Peyronie’s disease. We managed it nonsurgically over the next several months, and things normalized. And check the box for another positive doctor experience.
Fast forward another decade, and he reconnected with me again, this time for urination issues. His urinary stream had slowed, he was getting up at night, and he was going more frequently than he liked. We discussed the fact that the prostate, although useful for fertility in younger men, becomes the bane of our existence with age, since it grows bigger and “corks off” urination. Luckily, there are a host of pills that fend off age-related urologic inevitabilities and keep streams flowing.
During this visit, we were also able to have a candid discussion about screening for prostate cancer and, after being fully informed, he left the office with a plan for this too.
A Wagnerian Ring
The magic in this story are the long-term connections that are possible, built on trust, between medicine and men. Do them right, and men will seek care rather than suffer without it. There is currently concern at the national level that men are relatively “disengaged” with healthcare. My experience is that by “investing” in men and meeting their needs, then loyalty, commitment and better health follows. In a small but charming way, I feel like a pediatrician for men: it’s great to see them circle back time and again as they work out the kinks in their bodies. Seems to me that we should include the concept of connectivity, literally staring us in the face the whole time, in any design construct to improve men’s health.